In the last month, 2 doctors have been shot & killed, on the job, here in America.
I'm not going to say medicine is more dangerous than, say, police, fire, or military work. But it's certainly not safe, either. Both of the doctors who were killed were in hospitals at the time. One shot by a disgruntled patient, another by the upset son of a patient.
2 doctors in a month may be only a drop in the bucket in a country where 82 people are murdered with guns every single day, but it still scares the crap out of anyone trying to help patients, not to mention the affects on our families.
Do I get threatened? Yes. Sadly, all doctors and nurses do. People want to feel better. Or be cured of something. Or want more narcotics. Or are unhappy with my telephone system. So they yell and scream, and sometimes threaten. Most of them simply change doctors and a few may post a shitty review of me online. Generally that's as far as it goes.
But that doesn't mean it might end there. All it takes is one person who goes over the edge. And, here in the land of the gun, firearms are easily obtainable by anyone. Even those who hear voices telling them to kill people. Or have a history of violence with a restraining order against them. Or have committed felonies. Even for a doctor, it's hard to tell who is or isn't crazy enough to actually carry through on their threats.
The ER docs and nurses are the front-line in medicine. I don't know anyone who works in ER who hasn't been threatened or struck by a patient. Does that surprise you? Then go hang out in any decent sized ER in America and see what really goes on there. I was a 19 year old volunteer the first time I did that, and on my second shift got punched in the mouth by a junkie while I was taking her blood pressure.
Violence against health care workers is so common it's not reported most of the time. Only the fatalities make the news.
There's no easy answer, either. Put guns on ER staff? A lot of what they do is lean over patients, so it would be pretty easy for one, or a family member, to grab it off their belt. And don't ask about hospital security. Well-intentioned, sure, but at many hospitals the security guards are septuagenarian retirees with pepper spray. You think that's going to deter a delusional schizophrenic with a Glock?
That doesn't mean we aren't armed, too. I know plenty of docs who keep guns in their desks. Not automatic rifles with armor piercing bullets and high capacity magazines, just basic handguns. We all hope to never have to reach for it. That said, it won't do us any good, either, if a distraught and armed patient catches us up front reviewing lab reports. Or talking to a drug rep. Or heading down to our car.
Dr. Pissy has carried a Beretta under his white coat for as long as I can remember. If you don't think your doctor would keep a firearm in his or her office, think again. Like lawyers and university professors, we have our share of the irrationally angry, and we're easily accessible. Those "gun free zone" signs in front of hospitals and schools don't intimidate anyone determined to wreak havoc. And the laws your state might pass making it a felony to assault a healthcare worker aren't going to bother those who are most likely to do so.
For the record, I have plenty of patients who carry guns to the office (including a police officer who accidentally left it on my exam table overnight and I still give him shit about it). It doesn't bother me, either. They're responsible people (except for you, Officer JT) who happen to carry a gun with them and today have a doctor's appointment, as opposed to someone who brings the gun to the doctor's meaning to use it.
Would it protect me and my staff if Pissy and I had obviously displayed sidearms? Maybe... But on the other hand, a key part of medicine is putting the patient at ease, so you can gain their trust and help them. Plenty of people are not going to open up under that circumstance, which defeats the whole point of the visit. Not to mention all the people who let their rugrats run amok in our office and play with whatever they find
Some are going to take this post as saying I'm a gun nut, who thinks everyone should carry a piece. I didn't say that at all.
Others will take it to mean I'm an anti-gun person, who wants them all banned. I didn't say that either.
My point is this: your doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, regardless of where they work, are doing a damn dangerous job. All it takes is one irrational person with an easily-acquired weapon. And there's no easy way to prevent it, either.
Doctors, unfortunately, are easy targets. We're vulnerable, because what we do best - helping others - means that we're also putting our trust in them not to harm us, too. Trust goes both ways. To get you to confide in us, so we can examine you and figure out your problem, means you have to trust us. At the same time we assume that we can trust you in return. This arrangement works out well, tens of thousands of times a day around the world.
But in the last month 2 good doctors did their best to help and trust others. And paid for it with their lives.